Friday, December 30, 2016

Mix It Up Friday - December

from Tracey G

Here it is again! Another Mix It Up Friday! One of my favorite things we do - because while it's always fun (usually, lol) to bake from scratch, there's something equally fun about a mix as well! I love trying them and seeing if they can pass for homemade, even if it's not my intention, that is always my underlying ulterior motive, lol. I may not even do it consciously, but that's always something I'm looking for regardless. So far, King Arthur Flour has yet to disappoint!

Every mix I have tried would pass the homemade test, and this one this week is no exception. The Essential Goodness Cinnamon Sugar Puff Muffin Mix is wonderful! It really does remind me of a cinnamon sugar doughnut! I think there is just the right combination of nutmeg (once again they are putting one of my favorite spices to use!) and cinnamon in the muffin that combines wonderfully with the cinnamon sugar topping.

The extra ingredients you bring to the party for the muffins are eggs, butter or vegetable oil and milk. The only additional ingredient needed for the coating of cinnamon sugar is melted butter. Since I am watching my cholesterol intake these days, I used the vegetable oil option in the muffin mix instead of the butter, and they were still yummy as can be. I imagine the butter would add an extra layer of flavor (or just that little something you can't quite put your finger on), I do hope to try that variation one of these days, lol. And the other thing I did, was only dip the tops of the muffins in the cinnamon sugar mix. That is because I used foil liners for the muffins, and didn't feel like peeling them all off for the coating, lol.

 So, bottom line is this is another winner in the Essential Goodness line of mixes from  King Arthur FlourAnd don't forget, that for every Essential Goodness mix purchased,  King Arthur Flour will donate the cost of a meal to Feeding AmericaAnd that's something you can feel good about!

If you're like me and have limited places to shop, you can purchase any of the Essential Goodness mixes right from King Arthur Flour's website. Here's a link right to the purchase page: Cinnamon Sugar Puff Muffin Mix

from Kris B

My taste buds and the scale say that I have had enough sweets lately.  I was surprised to discover that King Arthur Flour carries soup mixes.  The Indiana Harvest Sausage and Lentil Soup Mix is manufactured by Frontier Soups and sold by King Arthur Flour as well as on the company's own website.

As Tracey said, most of the time we are committed to cooking from scratch. but every now and then it is handy to have a "mix" on hand.  The Indiana Harvest Sausage and Lentil Soup is described as a hearty meal and has a made from scratch flavor.  The "mix" contains the lentils and a spice packet.  So really, the convenience is in not having to forage through the spice rack and measure everything out.  The package instructions call for you to brown and add a pound of Italian sausage,  broth, three diced zucchini, and a couple of cans of petite diced tomatoes.  Since this was my first time to try this mix, I made it exactly as was instructed, but now having done that and eaten it, I can see the potential for lots of variations.

Though the name is sausage and lentil soup, I think that the Italian sausage could be omitted and vegetable broth substituted for the beef broth without compromising the overall flavor of the soup.  And, as is the case with almost any soup homemade or otherwise, whatever vegetables that you happen to have on hand could be added.  The next time I make this, I am going to try adding some spinach and or kale.

I do have a warning...this recipe makes A LOT of soup!!!  The package says 8-10 servings.  I'm not sure what they consider a serving size, but Weber and I had a dinner and two lunches with generous portions, plus I froze several containers for lunches once I go back to school.  It's a good thing we liked it! lol!

And what goes with soup?  Of course...a nice loaf of hot out of the oven bread!  I made the Everyday Whole-Grain Bread from the King Arthur October Bakealong Challenge.

I have not seen this soup mix in any of my local grocery stores, but as I said above, it is available on their King Arthur Flour website.  It is the prefect meal for these cold winter days ahead!


On a completely different note,  we want to let you know that this will be our last post to Pixels, Plates, and Lols.  No, we did not have a falling out over crumbs and drips or no crumbs and drips in our food photos, or over Times verses Arial (We both have that argument with Blogger!), or PS over LR.  All is good with us!  With a new year comes  new things.  Watch for new things from us with the dawning of 2017  We love all of you who have followed us from the beginning or who just stop by occasionally.  
Please don't go away!  we will be right back!  

Until then, drink lots of coffee, take lots of photos, and laugh, laugh, laugh!

We wish all of you and those you love a happy and healthy new year!

XOXOX Tracey and Kris

Friday, December 16, 2016

Food Friday - King Arthur Flour December Bakealong

from Tracey G

It's King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge week again! This month's recipe looked rather daunting due to steps, I was a bit apprehensive. But wow, was I mistaken! It was so easy to do, but yet looks like you fussed over it! This month, the recipe challenge is a Butter Pecan Kringle.

I'm always excited to see what the month's recipe is going to be, but mixed in with that excitement is always a little dread....what if it's too hard for me to do? What if it's something I don't like (granted, that worry is the smallest percentage, lol!)? When I saw this one, I will admit feeling a little "uh oh, what have I gotten myself into?" - I felt a bit of trepidation. And once I started it, that feeling totally vanished and in its place arrived "oh my gosh, this is so easy!". Seriously!

It's done in steps and if you just follow the 3 basic steps, you've got it. First you mix up the base, which is like a sticky pie pastry, lol. If you divide it into 4 pieces, it's really easy to form it into the flat oval ring (about 1.5" wide). Then you make the batter - easy peasy. It sounded harder than it was - it's super easy. Once you get that accomplished, you spread it over the pastry oval. Bake. That's it. Once, it's baked and cooled you add your adornments - in this case it's caramel drizzle (and the directions for getting that made as well are included), then on top of that you add pecan halves (I used chopped because I couldn't find halves) and top it all off with a powdered-sugar icing drizzle. There's also ideas for a raspberry jam and lemon powdered sugar icing, or anything that tickles your fancy. I am going to try using almond flavoring in the batter, and just topping with toasted sliced almonds and an almond flavored powdered sugar icing.  I also envision sweetened cream cheese somehow and cherry pie filling...lots of ideas for this versatile treat!!!

 Do try it, it's so easy and presents beautifully - Jeremy has pretty much eaten the whole thing single-handedly, lol. It goes great with coffee, and I left about a 1/4 of it without the pecans for Harry, it just had the caramel and the icing. I didn't take it one step further with the idea of the chocolate drizzle as the final step of goodness, but it was stated that it would be appreciated next time I make it, lol!!! I do believe I have found another holiday treat tradition!! Thank you King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge!

Link to the Butter Pecan Kringle Walk-through

from Kris B.

I am having a hard time getting my head rapped round the fact that Christmas is only ten days away.  It's not that I have any ill feelings about it this year; it just seems like I have had so much going on that Christmas just snuck up on me.  I have finally purchased a few gifts...and even mailed a few...but we have no tree up as of yet.  Making this month's Bakealong recipe has helped to nudge me toward the holiday spirit!

Christmas is all about suspending disbelief.  For me, making the Butter-Pecan Kringle required a little of that as well.  When I first read the recipe, I had a hard time picturing how the whole process was going to come together.  I took my normal approach to most things in life...take it one step at a time.  As Tracey said, if you do this, the Kringle comes together very easily; once you start working, the process is not nearly as daunting as it seems when you are reading through the recipe.

I made one slight error in in my preparation.  I used individual caramel candies melted in the microwave.  I failed to add a little bit of milk to keep the caramel filling super soft.  My husband was perfectly happy with my final product, but I thought the caramel was a bit too hard.  Next time I'll remember to add a little milk or use caramel sauce.  Lol!

The pastry is quite versatile, leaving lots of room for variation in the fillings and toppings.  Tracey is heading towards chocolate and almonds, I want to try a cinnamon and brown sugar filling.  Blueberries with a lemon drizzle also sounds good!  I have plenty of taste testers in my family willing to offer their services with almost any combination of flavors.

The Kringle is a great treat to have on hand for unexpected guests who might stop by to wish you happy holidays.  It would also make your co-workers happy if you leave it in the break room at work.    And of course, having it on hand for your own family holiday celebrations is also a good idea.

Happy baking!

King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge!

Link to the Butter Pecan Kringle Walk-through

We wish you peace and joy as you and those you love celebrate any of the many holidays at this time of year.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Food Friday - Cookies!!!

from Kris B.

Cookies!  There are very few kinds of cookies that I don't like.  Like Cookie Monster, having a cookie will always make me happy.  I'm not so sure about this new thing Cookie Monster has going on with cookies now being a "sometimes food."  I think they are most certainly an "anytime" food!

Admittedly, I have no talent for making the fancy iced and decorated cookies.  You'll have to turn to Tracey for help there!  I am more a master of uniform drop cookies, thanks to a handy dandy cookie scoop.  Lol!  But, that said, I really do like pretty cookies, especially as gifts.  I have reconciled my lack of skill and talent for icing with my love of pretty cookies by turning to making stamped cookies.

King Arthur Flour offers this set of three snowflake stamps.  These stamps, made of heavy cast aluminum,  have a solid wood handle that is sturdy and easy to grip, making their $23.95 price tag a little more palatable.  I have worked a lot with terracotta cookie stamps.  I much prefer the aluminum ones.  The "heaviness" of these stamps makes it easy to get an even pattern over the entire cookie.  The Starry Night stamps are also good sized, measuring three inches.  Printed on the box in which the stamps come is a recipe for Starry Night Stamped Gingerbread Cookies.  This recipe varies slightly from the King Arthur Flour recipe for Winter Spice Stamp Cookies that I used.  The primary difference between the two recipes is that the recipe on the stamp box uses a touch of cocoa in addition to the traditional cinnamon, cloves, and ginger found in most spice cookies and The King Arthur Winter Spice Stamp Cookies use the King Arthur Winter Spice Blend (available from King Arthur for $4.99) that is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, and cardamon.  The Winter Spice Stamp Cookies also use a touch of molasses.

Usually when I make stamped cookies, I roll the dough into balls and use the stamping process to both flatten and imprint the cookies.  Instead of this method, these cookies are rolled out to 1/4" thick, cut out, and then stamped.  This process made for pretty edges on the cookies.  I used a fluted edge round cutter from a set by Ateco to cut my cookies.  The cutter was exactly the same size as the cookie stamps, which made for the pretty edges around the stamped area of the cookie as well as on its edges.  One thing that I did do that was not specified in the instructions was to dip the stamp in sugar before stamping each cookie.  I'm not sure if this helped, but I had no issues with the stamp releasing from the dough.

The Winter Spice Stamp cookies are a crisp cookie, much like a ginger snap.  Generally, I prefer chewy cookies, but these are really good, especially with a hot cup of coffee that I may or may not have used for dipping my cookie.  :-) As one who always prefers crispy cookies, and cookies with NO chocolate, and cookies that go well with coffee, Weber was quite happy with this week's recipe choice as well.  Tracey and I had a good laugh over the fact the we both tend towards chewy cookies and Jeremy, like Weber, likes the crispy ones...just one more way in which our worlds are similar!

If they are not all eaten before you can package them, these are pretty cookies and will make a great Christmas gift.  To make the gift even more special, add some nice coffee or, if you must, tea for a gift that will surely be appreciated...even if the recipient is normally a chewy cookie kind of person.  Lol!

Winter Spice Stamp Cookies

from Tracey G

This time of year I'm gearing up (if not already into full swing) for making my Christmas Food Gifts. Usually it's cookies or treats of some kind. I love making them more than I like eating them (I can't believe that's even possible, but it's true!), so it's always fun for me to get started. My plan of attack is usually the same - one or two really pretty things (more complicated) then fill in with the easier sorts of things that don't require a lot of tedious work or detail etc. I rotate my recipes every year, usually trying to incorporate one or two new ones every season. And the new ones usually involve some sort of EASY to produce cookie (or treat)!

I love thumbprint cookies - they are one of my favorite cookies to eat, and I love making them because they are so easy! Like Kris, I too use a cookie scoop (it's about a tablespoon I believe) for any cookie dough I can, lol. It makes quick work out of getting them on the baking sheet to be sure! So, when I was perusing the King Arthur Flour website  for a cookie recipe this week to try, I ran across this one for Lemon-Raspberry Thumbprints. It's a combination I've never made in this sort of cookie - I've used raspberry jam before in my thumbprints (because it's one of my favorites), but I've never made a lemon-flavored cookie to go under it. I was sold!

The dough was super easy to whip up. The do give you a couple options, as you can make them with the tablespoon sized scoop/spoon or a teaspoon. I went with tablespoon because that's what size my scoop it and I wanted it as easy as possible, lol. After I got them scooped onto the baking sheet, I used a round measuring teaspoon to make the indentations for the jam after they are baked. Once they were baked off and totally cooled, I added the jam. The jam sets up a bit, so they hold up nicely. 

Harry proclaimed that these were the best thing ever, and Jeremy (not to mention myself!) loved them as well. They have earned a spot in "The Book" of keepers for sure! I will make these again, and they will be great in my Christmas Treat Rotation!

Here's a link to the recipe:

Friday, December 2, 2016

Food Friday -We Love Bread!

from Tracey G.

This week, Kris and I raided our Fall issues of Sift, a most wonderful magazine published by King Arthur Flour, for our recipes. We both spotted breads that intrigued us, so, we decided to give them a whirl for our offering this week. I decided on the English Muffin Toasting Bread.

I decided on this recipe even before I read completely through it - I love English Muffins, so I knew I'd love this! After I read it, I had to re-read at least a couple times - because it couldn't possibly be that easy. I must have misread it - or misunderstood it...nope, it really is just that easy. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, microwave the liquids in another until the liquid mixture is about 120-130°F. Add to the dry, and mix. Once mixed, dump it into the lightly-greased-and-coated-with-cornmeal loaf pan. Let rise until just slightly above the top of the pan. Bake for about 27 minutes. And done. That easy. No kneading, whatsoever. Mix and toss into the pan, let rise and bake. Now, for me, my dough seems to be ready to bake by the time my oven has preheated - so that makes it even quicker!

The only thing that I did that made it slightly more difficult was to make a double batch - it's so sticky, lol, that it was really hard to divide between the two loaf pans! But it disappears around here so fast (I've made it numerous times now!) making a double batch is most prudent. True to its name, this is a marvelous toasting bread. Oh my goodness, it's the best stuff ever for toast! It gets that delightful toasty-chewy texture, and the surface-texture of it holds the butter wonderfully! I even turned it into a lovely garlic bread - toasted, brushed with olive oil and then rubbed with a clove of garlic. It was perfect!

It seems to keep well, and it also freezes quite nicely, which I was happy to find out - granted, it wasn't in the freezer for long, since as I said before - the bread doesn't last long in this household! I do plan on trying to get ahead and getting a few loaves into the freezer because this is one bread I can tell you for a fact, will be a staple in around here. I have never ever made a bread this easy before, ever. Not only is it easy to make, but it's fabulous to eat too - toasted or even not toasted! I've been known to slice off a piece and eat it as is - nothing adorning it, just naked bread! Yummy! This is one bread that even if you've never attempted to make bread before - you will nail perfection the first time around. Because even if it doesn't look too perfect, it tastes perfect! 

So, please, give the English Muffin Toasting Bread a try, you will not be disappointed! 

English Muffin Toasting Walk Through

from Kris B.

 Tracey mentioned that the English Muffin Toasting Bread recipe was easy to make.  Thankfully, so was the Apple-Oatmeal Bread, my choice from the fall issue of King Arthur Flour's Sift magazine.  It is confession time.  Tracey and I usually bake and take our photos reasonably in advance of each week's post.  Somehow that didn't happen for me this time.  I was baking this morning, hoping with all my might that the recipe worked and that I could get decent photos before I ran out of time and light.  I have always been one who works to deadlines.  I am not exactly a procrastinator.  My method for accomplishing most things is to think about them, let them roll around in my mind until the eleventh hour, and then get it down, hoping that all the things that I thought about how the task would be accomplished actually work in reality.  I am happy to say that today's tempting of fate was not a disaster!

The method for making the Apple-Oatmeal Bread is much like that of the English Muffin Toasting Bread.  All of the ingredients, minus a cup of the flour, are all stirred together vigorously for two minutes and then the remaining flour is worked in 1/3 of a cup at a time.  Then the dough is turned out on a floured board and kneaded until it is "smooth and elastic."

This bread requires two rises.  The recipe suggests that both will take about an hour.  With the first, the dough should double in volume and with the second, it should rise an inch above the pan.  In both cases, my rise time was about 45 minutes.  The bread then bakes for 30 minutes.  The entire process from start to finish, beginning with peeling and dicing the apples, took about three hours, with only about thirty minutes of that being hands-on time.  The result is superb!

I deviated slightly from the printed recipe.  In addition to oatmeal, apples, and a touch of cinnamon, the recipe calls for the addition of walnuts.  I am not a fan of nuts in bread, and if I am going to include nuts, walnuts are my least favorite.  Being in the South, pecans are my "nut of choice."  I debated with myself about leaving them out, but I wanted to maintain the integrity of the original recipe, so I made the substitution.  Another confession; I like the nuts in this bread.

Both of the recipes that Tracey and I have shared this week are part of an article in Sift about ways to dress up a grilled cheese sandwich.  Both the breads are so good on their own that at neither of our houses did they last long enough to get to sandwich making.  They were eaten hot out of the oven.  In fact, because everyone at my house was home all day today and were surrounded by the smell of the baking bread, I had to fend them off long enough to get the photos taken.  Once I surrendered the loaf, they were right there with a knife and butter.

I am definitely going to make this again with the intention of using it for grilled cheese sandwiches.  I also think that it would make a delicious french toast.

This recipe was originally posted on the King Arthur Flour website in January 2008.  That recipe makes two loaves.  The recipe included in the Fall 2016 issue of Sift is halved, thus it makes only a single loaf.  Other than that, the recipes are identical.

Apple-Oatmeal Bread

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mix It Up Friday - November

from Kris B.

It's Mix It Up Food Friday, the Friday each month where we share our experiences with a few of the King Arthur Flour mixes.

Though I am a fan of almost anything chocolate, to me, desserts with spices seem more like Thanksgiving.  They complement the obligatory Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, I decided to try King Arthur's Iced Chai Latte Cake ($9.95 from King Arthur Flour).  I knew that my chai spice loving family would be glad to help me eat the cake over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

This cake mixes up easily and, according to the instructions on the box, can be baked in either a bundt pan or a 9x13 cake pan.  Wanting a "pretty" cake, I opted for the bundt pan.  The instructions did not specify a particular size of bundt pan so I used the one I always use, the only one I have.  As I poured the batter into the pan, it didn't look like enough, but I continued on, figuring that the cake must rise a lot.  The suggested cook time is 45-55 minutes.  Knowing that my oven usually requires a little more than  the minimum cooking times suggested for most items, I set the timer for 50 minutes.  When I took the cake from the oven, it was a beautiful golden brown, a short beautiful golden brown.  It did not rise to fill my pan all the way.  Maybe half way???

I let the cake cool and then made the included vanilla icing.  After mixing the required ingredients, the icing seemed very stiff.  There was no way that it was going to pour and drizzle nicely over the sides of the cake.  The instructions say to let the icing rest for 10 minutes before topping the cake.  I did that hoping that something magic would happen and it would morph into the right consistency.  The magic didn't happen.  The icing was still too stiff to pour, so I added about a tsp. more milk.  It was still fairly thick, but I hoped it would run down the sides.  When all was said and done, the cake looked OK.

I was a little disappointed when we actually tasted the Iced Chai Latte Cake.  For a recipe that uses three eggs and 12 TBS of butter, it was dry and not nearly as rich as I expected.  It wasn't bad, just not what I expected.  If you are wondering, it did get eaten.  This cake was best with a nice hot cup of coffee.

I am willing to concede some user error here.  The fact that my pan apparently was too big, which affected the cooking process and time, probably accounts for the cake being a bit dry.  In my defense, however, the box did not specify any particular bundt pan size.  I am going to buy a smaller pan and try this mix again.  The flavor is delicious and the cake is one that would make a perfect addition to brunch, lunch, or dinner.

I am thankful to have plenty in my life to nourish my body and my soul.  As we make our way through this holiday season, let us remember that there are many people who are cold, hungry, and feel unloved.  Our response to our thankfulness should be service to those that  have little or nothing for which to be thankful.  Do something kind for someone less fortunate than you - feed them, smile at them, have a conversation with them, hug them, pray for them, let them know you care.

May joy surround you and those you love!

from Tracey G.

The mix of choice for me to try this week, was the Everyone's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix from the King Arthur Flour Essential Goodness line of mixes. Where I live, it's rare to find their products other than a few basics and their signature flours, the last trip to my in-law's this past month though, allowed me to find this mix (and a couple more for future testing!) at Target! (my closest Target is 2 hours away, so I only get there when visiting downstate!) And they had a really good selection of the Essential Goodness mixes to boot. I was so happy! Usually I just order straight from the King Arthur Flour website, so this was a nice little bonus to find them "in-person".

This mix was sinfully easy to put together. I mean it - I had cookie dough ready to go in mere minutes. The only required ingredients were: one stick of butter and one egg. That's it. Before I knew it, I had my cookies scooped, on the cookie sheet and in the oven. I don't think it could get any easier, lol.

Ok, so now that they were so easy, how were they going to taste? I must admit, they could seriously pass for homemade. Easily. There are some "variations" on the package for customizing your cookie texture. If you want chewy, add brown sugar. Do you prefer crunchy? That can be arranged too - add regular granulated sugar. The last variation offered was for a more cakey-texture, to achieve that you add some milk. I went with the crunchy version, although, I'm one who prefers chewy, the rest of my household likes a crunchy cookie, so, I obliged them this go around, lol. And they were perfect. The texture was perfect, everyone was happy - even I, the chewy-cookie lover, thoroughly enjoyed them! Yes!! The ONLY complaint I heard, was that there just weren't enough, lol! I'll take that kind of complaint any day! There's even ideas for using the mix on their Everyone's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix product detail page - always fun to have more ideas for a product I think.

So, if you need to make some cookies quick or in a no-fuss way, I highly recommend the Essential Goodness Everyone's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix by King Arthur Flour!! You can't go wrong, well, unless you burn them or drop them or something like that, LOL.

Happy EASY baking!!


Friday, November 18, 2016

Food Friday - King Arthur Flour November Bakealong Challege - Apple Pie

from Tracey G

It's November's King Arthur Flour's Bakealong week! But wow, I can't believe it's November already! Anyway, I am really enjoying the Bakealongand now every month I look forward to finding out what the the Monthly Challenge is going be. It's one of the first things I do at the beginning of the month - go check and see what the month's recipe is! I was pleasantly surprised to see Apple Pie was this month's Bakealong Challenge I love apple pie, and it was a great excuse to make one AND to try my hand at making my own pastry again. So, in effect it was also reinforcing a skill I'm trying to master - or at least help me become fairly proficient at, lol.

I have to say, that in my opinion, this was the best apple pie I've ever made. I don't know if it was the addition of the Boiled Cider or the King Arthur Flour Vietnamese Cinnamon I just started using, or if it was everything in combination with the lovely Ida Red apples I used - but whatever it was, it worked in a super duper way! This pie was wonderful - so wonderful that it wasn't eaten as dessert - Jeremy and I enjoyed it for breakfast with our coffee!! LOL! It was way too good to wait for dessert time!

The pastry was easy to put together, which made me happy since I am still getting comfortable making pie pastry. The directions in the recipe are so very helpful, they really put me at ease. Unfortunately I couldn't finish the recipe the day I made the pastry, so it did refrigerate a couple days, which wasn't planned, but I didn't have a choice. And you know what? It still was a dream for a pie-pastry-challenged person such as myself to work with! And seriously - do the edge roll that they recommend once you get it flattened into disks, it really saved my edges on the roll-out as they said it would. 

I opted for a lattice top pie. I've only done lattice one other time, and it's something I discovered then that it was fun to do, not to mention it looks so pretty! I also took it one step further, I made a batch of their Single Crust Pastry so that I could use my neat little pie pastry cutters in the shapes of leaves that I just got, and, was dying to use to decorate my pie (the kind that imprint the leaf's texture on the dough). And they didn't let me down, it was fun AND pretty. I took the rest of the dough and let Harry cut some out, plus the leaves already cut that I didn't use, and let Harry brush them with the egg white wash I used on the finished pie before baking, and then sprinkle them generously with cinnamon sugar - so we had some nice little bonus snacks!

The filling was wonderful and to be honest, I could've eaten it just on its own, lol. Really flavorful - mine had a wonderfully seasoned, sweet-tart taste going on.  The only thing it was lacking - vanilla ice cream! I unfortunately didn't have any, very upsetting! LOL Next time though...I'll be prepared. Unless I decide on whim I just gotta have some of this apple pie right now, whenever that moment hits - which, with as yummy as this was, that is entirely possible!

All in all, it ended up being just as pretty as it was tasty. Pretty is something I always strive for when I do stuff like this, but it doesn't always happen - and that's ok because the treats always taste good which is THE ultimate goal after all, lol . This time though? I think I achieved both goals! Yes! 

from Kris B.

This week, as Tracey and I share our experience with The King Arthur Flour November Bakealong, you see one of the places where we are not quite so similar…she is the pretty one, and I am the more practical one.  Lol!  Actually, as we discussed how we would handle the Bakealong Challenges, we decided that one of us would follow the recipe as presented by King Arthur, and one of us would try to share some kind of variation of that recipe in an effort to show just how flexible King Arthur’s recipes are with a little creativity.

In addition to the monthly Bakealong Challenge, King Arthur is also sponsoring the Bake for Good program.  This program is intended to share a love of baking as well as help to combat hunger.  Bakers are encouraged to bake some homemade goodness and share it with family, friends, and strangers.  This is where my motivation to make hand pies based on this month’s Bakealong Challenge was born.

As a college professor, I am surrounded by hungry students (and a few hungry colleagues) every day.  This is a good thing because when I have the urge to bake, I know that I can take my latest creation to school to share and not be obligated to eat the whole recipe myself.  Everyone is always most appreciative…some days more than others.  Because I teach at the community college, my classes are relatively small.  That provides me the opportunity to get to know my students well, both academically and personally, their struggles and successes both in and outside of the classroom.  And they know me not only as their music theory instructor, but also as a baker, in more than name only.  Lol!  With that in mind, I have to share a story from school this week.

For those of you who have been away from college for awhile, the face of the average college student is much different than it was when I was a student.  My Monday-Wednesday morning class is very small, five students.  On Wednesday, two of the young men arrived to class about ten minutes late.  They both came through the door apologizing for their tardiness saying that they were late because they had “diaper duty.”  One of these young men is a mid-twenties student who is an extremely talented and hardworking pianist.  His wife works as a caregiver for a special needs child.  They have a six month old daughter.  This student has to wait for his wife to return home from her responsibilities of getting the child she cares for ready for school and on the bus so that she can then assume care for their baby during the day while her husband is at school.  The second student on “diaper duty” is a young man, a percussionist working towards becoming a band director,  who’s forty-three year old mother had a stroke a few months ago.  Insurance will no longer pay for her to stay in a rehabilitation facility so the family is fully responsible for caring for their wife and mother, who is partially paralyzed.  The father is working full time.  The youngest child in the family, a girl who is a high school senior, can’t miss school.  So, the two boys, my student and his older brother, are juggling their work and school schedules to make sure that their mother has twenty-four hour care.  That is not the student experience I had!  Why am I sharing all of this?

When I bring baked goods to class, it adds a touch of normalcy, of caring, of goodness to my students’ day.  They can relax for the few minutes it takes to enjoy a homemade treat.  There is no question that food has the ability to bring people together and create comfort in community.  

The problem with baking the actual apple pie to share with this class was that although my classroom is well equipped for teaching, it is not well equipped for eating.  I did not want to have to take plates and forks and a pie server to school.  Hand pies seemed like a reasonable solution.

I made both the pie pastry and the crust exactly as directed in the King Arthur recipe. When I rolled the dough,  I then used a 3” round cutter to cut the “bottom crust”, mounded the apple filling in the middle, and added a “top crust.”  I used the same cutter for the top crust, but rolled it a bit thicker initially.  Once cut, I then rolled it thinner and bigger before placing it atop each of the apple mounds.  I then used a fork to crimp the two pieces together and poke vent holes in the tops.  These need to be assembled directly on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Once completely assembled, I used an egg white wash to brush the top of each hand pie and sprinkled the tops with coarse white sugar.

The King Arthur recipe calls for the full-sized pie to bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees and another 40 minutes at 375 degrees.  I baked the hand pies on a parchment lined baking sheet for the full 20 minutes at 425 degrees, but only 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

I got twelve hand pies from the pie crust recipe.  I did have quite a bit a filling leftover.  My husband ate the extra apple mixture straight from the bowl and my daughter cooked it with a little butter and used it to top buckwheat pancakes.  The possibilities are endless!!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Food Friday - Pumpkin: Twists on Traditional

from Tracey G

I'm always looking for new ways to do something that's a well-loved stand-by, lol. I love pumpkin pie, which is funny because I never liked it as a kid. Wasn't my thing, I liked my fruit pies, blueberry especially. I can't say I remember when I started loving pumpkin pie actually, I think I was into adulthood to be honest! But anyway, I thought this recipe for No-Fuss Pumpkin Pie Bites from King Arthur Flour sounded like a fun way to get your traditional pumpkin pie fix, in cute little personal-sized desserts! (probably why I love cupcakes - they are small individual single-serving sized cakes, how fun is that?) Not to mention how easy this treat would be to transport and share - it's already cut, just needs some whipped cream (or not) or honey as my father-in-law prefers and you're good to go! I mean, technically, you don't even need eating utensils, as they are even contained in their own little wrapper to hold on to, peel away and eat!

I did have a mishap though, and ended up making 2 batches. The first batch, I had whipped up in a jiffy - it really is an easy recipe and comes together super quick - and I had about 3 or 4 of the muffin tins filled when I realized I used the wrong flour! I had even specifically bought self-rising flour for this recipe. And since I couldn't find the King Arthur Self-Rising flour in any of my stores (which are only like 3 to choose from, lol), I ordered it from their website to be sure I had it, lol. But what did I do? Not even thinking,  I had used regular flour. So, I hastily dumped the already-filled foil wrappers back into the batter bowl, and stirred in a teaspoon of baking powder as per a quickly looked-up recipe for homemade self-rising flour and hoped for the best. Well, they tasted good, but the texture seemed off, too dry for what I expected them to be like. I really wanted to get them done correctly, so even though they were yummy as is, I made another batch. The 2nd batch was much better because it had a better texture - more pie-like, than my non-self-rising-flour batch. As they state in their description of the recipe, it's reminiscent of the "impossible pie" recipes - and it is, the outer edge makes a sort-of crust, while the middle is more of the pie texture - it all equals up to a big yum factor though no matter what!

They are easy to make, easy to take and easy to eat! That makes them a perfect dessert offering whether you are making them to take to a gathering, making them package up and give away or making them just to eat at home yourself. They certainly live up to their name - they are no-fuss in all aspects!!

The recipe:

from Kris B

Though it still doesn't look like fall outside in Texas, there is definitely a feeling of fall swirling around.  People are wearing sweaters and long sleeves, despite the fact that the temperatures are still consistently in the seventies, because that is what you are supposed to do in November.  Hints of Christmas are popping up in malls and a few peoples' yards, but most importantly, the grocery stores now have their big displays of baking items front and center!  Right now, there is an abundance of orange from those gorgeous cans of pureed pumpkin!  Lol! I realize that you actually can buy puréed pumpkin all year long; for whatever reason though, I only think about it in the fall.

Last fall, I shared my mom's pumpkin quick bread recipe.  It may be my favorite recipe by which to remember my mom.  It is a traditional "sweet" pumpkin bread.  This year, looking for something different, I found King Arthur Flour's Holiday Pumpkin Bread.  It is a yeast bread, not sweet, but has all of the spices that I associate with my mom's pumpkin bread.  Plus, it is braided to add a fancy look to your holiday table...or kitchen counter.

The Holiday Pumpkin Bread is the easiest yeast bread recipe that I have ever made.  It requires no proofing of the yeast.  All you do is throw all of the ingredients in a bowl, mix them either by hand, mixer with a dough hook, or bread machine, and set it aside to rise for about ninety minutes.  After the first rise, the dough is divided in half.  (It makes two 8"-9" rings.). Each half is then divided into three pieces, from which 18" ropes are made and then braided.  The braids are made into  rings, placed in the two pans to again rise for ninety minutes. Then they bake for 30 minutes.  And then you have two beautiful Holiday Pumpkin Bread rings.  They keep for five days, or may be frozen for several months.  They look like you slaved in the kitchen for days. Lol!

This bread has a great deal of flavor on its own, but a little butter, cinnamon butter, or honey and it becomes a real treat.  My daughter thinks that it would be good with cranberries.  I haven't tried that yet; however, neither of our two rings made it to the freezer so I'll be making another batch before Thanksgiving.  I may give the cranberries a try!

Though I bake a lot throughout the year, there is something different about baking at this time of the year.  It may be the pumpkin...and the cinnamon; or, it may be that much of what I bake during the holidays is shared or given away to others.  I bake for my students as the semester becomes more stressful during the final stretch, I bake for my colleagues because they are grateful for anything that makes its way to the workroom as a quick snack between classes.  I bake for holiday gatherings.  And, I do lots of baking for gifts.  The words "company" and "companion" mean "with bread."  This holiday season, make some bread and break it with those you love.  It is at the table where true community flourishes.

Recipe Link: